Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Careers

From medical student to junior doctor: an A to Z guide

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 01 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:0409330
  1. Richard Beasley, professor1,
  2. Geoffrey Robinson, consultant physician2,
  3. Amanda McNaughton, physician3
  1. 1Medical Research Institute of New Zealand
  2. 2Medical Research Institute of New Zealand
  3. 3Medical Research Institute of New Zealand

Richard Beasley, Geoffrey Robinson, and Amanda McNaughton give some succinct advice on becoming a junior doctor.

The transition from medical student to junior doctor is difficult for many reasons. These include the content of the undergraduate course (which often covers numerous subjects which have little or no application to clinical practice), the lack of an apprenticeship period with close supervision, and the extraordinary nature of the first year junior doctor's job in terms of clinical responsibilities, horrendous workload, and resulting personal and professional stress.

Resolving this situation is complex. It needs major restructuring of the undergraduate curriculum (as has happened at the University of Southampton, where there is clinical patient contact from the first year), incorporating a “trainee intern” year, in which final year medical students work as apprentice junior doctors (as occurs in New Zealand), and major reform of the duty requirements of junior doctors (as has occurred in many Western countries, with a restriction on the number of hours of work and the recognition of workload as a patient safety issue).

It is important that final year medical students recognise the difficulties that they are likely to face as junior doctors and the ways in which they can overcome them. This A to Z may help.

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